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Everything You Need to Know About Starting an Event Planning Business

Everything you need to know about starting an event planning business, and the theme of this lesson is to really get down to business.

Let’s talk about four segments to focus on:

First, your roadmap for starting a successful event planning business. Whenever you are doing anything, whenever you are trying to get somewhere, it’s useful to have a roadmap.

We are going to take a look at where you are and where you want to be.

Then, we’ll cover two common mistakes that hold most new business owners back and how to avoid it.

After that, we’ll focus on five core areas of every business and where to focus first to get your event planning business started strong.

Lastly, we’ll cover a simple technique for making everything in your new event planning business seamless and less stressful.

The Roadmap: Starting Your Event Planning Business from the Ground Up 

Let’s hop right into the “Roadmap: Starting Your Event Planning Business from the Ground Up.”

In this first lesson we look at how to get you from where you are right now, to where you want to be.

Dream It! Plan It! Do It!

Something that I’ve learned from all the wisdom from every book I’ve ever read on personal and professional development, from my own life experiences, and from observing the successful people around me is this: no matter what you want in business, in life, in home renovations, whatever it is…

…the secret to making it happen is three things: dream it, plan it, and do it.

You know, in dreaming, you have to know what you want.

Plan it!

Once you know what you want, there is a process of breaking down the steps to get there.

You might not know all the necessary steps to get to your ultimate destination, but you can figure out the next best step to move in the right direction.

So, dream it, plan it, and then do it.

And do it is all about taking action.

In our online event planning courses, it’s all about taking action to help you dream it, plan it, do it.

3-Steps to Dream It! Plan It! Do It!

When we look at dream it, plan it, do it and we talk about what that looks like in terms of building your event planning business, what that really breaks down to is this:

  • Step One: Decide what you want, based on who you are, what you value, and what your ambitions are. This isn’t about what your competitors are doing or what your favorite event planning guru is doing, this is about you and the business you want to build and how it fits into the life that you want to have.
  • Step Two: Create a plan that reflects your values, lifestyle, and business goals.
  • Step Three: The tricky part – is to work your plan and that’s what we focus on in our courses.

Self-Evaluation

In terms of a roadmap, start with this idea of dreaming.

Dreaming gets a bad rep.

People will always tell you to stop dreaming or to get your head out of the clouds; if you have those people in your life, just ignore them!

If you don’t have a vision of what you want from your event planning business and your life, then you will likely wake up to find that you built something that looks good on paper but, that you actually don’t want, and you don’t like.

The other benefit is to get really clear and to spend time dreaming and imagining what you want that vision to look like.

I love this quote from Seneca, “if one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”

Opportunities Coming Your Way

As you ramp up your event planning business, many opportunities will come your way and some of those opportunities are going to be things that support your goals, and others are going to be things that take you off track.

But, you are not going to be able to recognize the things that take you off track if you don’t know what your track is. So, it’s really important to gain clarity on what kind of business you want.

Step One

And the first step…and this will be easy for some of you and more difficult for others. The first step is to really ask yourself, what kind of event planning business you want.

Do you want to have a small event planning business that is basically creating a job for yourself and maybe a few people that you might hire on a project basis?

Do you want to work from home? Do you want to be doing smaller, local events where you can really have a hands-on relationship?

Or, do you want a mid-size business? Maybe you want an event space, maybe you want to have full-time staff, maybe you want to come in to work every day and be surrounded by a team of ten or twelve people.

And then, maybe you want to become a global name in event planning. Maybe you want to have international offices, maybe you want to be jet setting to London to oversee your latest major event that’s happening there.

Every event business is different. Every event planner is different. Whatever you might want for your own event planning business, that’s going to be the real anchor of how everything rolls out going from here.

Now, of course, as you start to gain clarity on what your dream is, as you start to articulate that, you are going to have questions and uncertainties about whether your business can actually deliver on those things.

The questions that come up often are things like, will this event business really work? Can I be successful in the way that I have defined it in my vision of the future? How will I compete? Will people hire me? How much will I charge? How much money will I need to start?

Process vs. Output

Let’s articulate some of the high-level direction that you’ve got in your business. But, I want to caution you that plans are nothing and planning is everything. What I mean by that is, it’s important to focus working on planning as well as doing. And, it’s important in planning to understand that there are two aspects of planning, there is the process and the output.

The idea that plans are nothing, that is really just sharing that what you write in your plan may or may not come to pass. Somethings are not going to go the way that you imagined, somethings are going to go way better than you imagined, which is going to be awesome, and somethings are just going to be completely different than what you might have imagined.

No matter what happens moving forward, you’ll be equipped to deal with it effectively.

Market Research

Now that you have had a chance to reflect and evaluate yourself, we are going to transition into more of the nitty-gritty details. You can have the most unique and thought-out plan, but without the proper research, you will not be in the correct position for success.

In fact, did you know that nearly half of small businesses in the United States don’t make it past five years?

Don’t fret – I know, that’s a lot!

But that’s why we designed Success Academy for you, we are here to help you avoid being just another statistic!

Now we need to shine light on your business idea and bring it to reality.

Will You Succeed?

Does your business idea have the potential to succeed?

One of the determining factors for success, is whether or not your idea passes the validation process: does your business solve a problem or fulfill a need for your target audience, customers, or clients? Of course, there are many different ways to experiment with this process, such as research and trial and error. But, lets avoid the latter and do the research!

The market research process is not nearly as worrisome as it’s made out to be. It can be done with a few hours and an internet connection! To start out, ask yourself some questions. Is there a need for my business? Who needs it? Who is the competition?

Are there other companies who offer the same event services?

If so, how am I going to be different?

And lastly, how will my business fit into the market?

These are all questions that can be found online!

A simple search like “event planning companies in New York” will pop up results, and there you have the answer to one of your questions.

I suggest you look into some of the top results and see what they are doing and what their clients have to say. This will give you some insight on your competition and what they are doing correctly and incorrectly.

Capitalize on Your Competitor’s Mistakes

If you consistently see a negative comment referring to their poor organization or lack of communication, advertise that you are extremely organized and respond promptly to all inquiries – provided you actually do.

These are just a few examples, but the point of market research, is to scope out your competition and set yourself apart before it’s too late!

Event Business Plan

Once you have done your market research and have been able to identify what you will do different as a company, it’s time to design your business plan.

This is where you really start to bring your ideas to life.

An event business plan is similar to a blueprint. It will get your event planning business from the start-up phase, through the various other phases, and on to the growth phase. Because of this, business plans are a must-have for any, and all business – large or small.

Now, not all business plans are created equal. In fact, you will likely have a different business plan than even your closest competitors – and that’s a good thing!

Business plans will address a variety of aspects, from financial support and investments (we will discuss that shortly) to marketing and growth strategies. The length and type of business plan depends entirely on your needs and expectations.

Financial Plan

If you plan to receive financial support from an investor or financial institution, the business plan will be more extensive and detailed, whereas a simple single-page business plan is sufficient for those not needing financial support.

I hear stories all the time about business owners who wrote their initial business plan on the back of a napkin in their favorite café – any plan is better than no plan!

7-Steps to Creating a Business Plan

Let’s go through the 7 steps to creating an event planning business plan:

  1. Research, research, research!
    • Know your company, your services, your competition and the market
  2. Determine the purpose of your plan
    • For event planners, it often serves the same purpose as a roadmap – to get you from start to finish
  3. Create a company profile
    • List your services, prices, target market and audience, resources, and how you are different than your competition
  4. Document all aspects
    • Expenses, cash flow, industry projections, and agreements
  5. Have a strategic marketing plan
    • How you will introduce new services, boost sales, entering into long-term contracts, raising prices, enhance services
  6. Explain why you care
    • Why are you passionate and dedicated? What are your differentiators?
  7. List your resources and how they will be used
    • Money, computers, employees, contractors, etc.

We expand on these throughout our courses. Click here to learn more.

How to Set Your Pricing

Let’s start with how to set your pricing.

As with any career, setting competitive, but sustainable prices is not an easy task. If you set your prices too high, you will struggle to find business. If you set your prices too low, you will struggle to keep up may very well start to lose money. In order to find a competitive rate – a rate your ideal clients are willing to pay, you will need to research what similar businesses in your area are charging.   

Knowing how to charge for your event planning services is a struggle many planners experience because there are many variable that affect your rates.

How to Charge For Your Event Services

Determining how to charge for event planning services is one of the hardest parts to starting your event planning business, so spend time considering:

  1. The market in your area
  2. Your startup costs
  3. Whether you’ll charge a flat fee or an hourly rate.

When I started my event planning business, I charged an hourly rate of $75, as well as a minimum retainer of $2,500. At the time being, this was practical and sustainable based on the startup costs, my area, and my experience.

Full payments were due 21 days prior to the event, and everything was outlined in a contract that a lawyer created.

For each event, my intern tracked our hours and sent an invoice to the client at the beginning of each month, which was due at time of receipt.

After 6 months of planning events, I took all the invoices and looked at the hours it took to plan each event, which allowed me to give my clients an estimated timeline on future events.

With event budgets of (more than) $1,00,000, I charged clients a flat rate of 10-15% planning fee plus a 10% service fee to cover office and miscellaneous expenses.

In both scenarios, event budgets were fully disclosed and available to the client because they were responsible for paying all event vendors and outside resources.

It’s important to price your event services correctly for optimal sales, cash flow, profit margins, and branding.

Be consistent with your rates and be confident with your rates. Both will show you’re a professional who knows how to get the job done, which leads to more work (and more profit) for you!

Financing

Financing – a scary word (and for good reason).

Without the right understanding and tracking of finances, even a successful and well-established event business can drown.

Contrary to popular belief, starting a small business does not have to require a lot of money.

In fact, in 2004, I started my event planning business from my kitchen table with less than $500.

It can be done!

As you are starting out, using a simple spreadsheet, I recommend you take some time to sit down and think about every start-up cost you can think of (licenses, permits, equipment, insurance, branding fees, trademarks, inventory, property leases, business cards, etc.).

Additionally, it’s good practice to add in what you expect you’ll need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (utilities, rent, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).

When you have added all expenses, that is your total initial investment you will need.

Funding Your Event Business

Now that you have a rough estimate of your initial investment, you have a few options for funding your small business. A majority of people in the event planning business do not require funding, but those that opt for such, can choose from the following:

  • Friends and family
  • Small business loans
  • Small business grants
  • Angel investors
  • Crowdfunding

Whichever option you choose, the point is to work through your options and create a feasible plan for getting your business off the ground.

Small businesses run most effectively when there are systems in place. Though it’s not essential when you first start out, one of the most important systems is an accounting system.

As you start out, if you are the only employee and have very few costs, that spreadsheet I previously mentioned will do the trick. But, as you add employees and start having consistent clients and events, an accounting system will be your lifesaver.

Accounting System

Your accounting system will create and manage your budget, set your rates and prices, and assists greatly with your taxes. Nonetheless, accounting software saves time. There is a plethora of options to choose from, so I suggest that you make a list of the features you absolutely need, features that would be nice to have but aren’t necessary, and features that you would be fine without.

Most of the small business accounting features include but are not limited to:

  • Sales tracking
  • Manage customer contacts
  • Budgeting
  • Estimates
  • Payroll
  • Merchant account support for credit card payments
  • Business tax reporting
  • Statement of cash flow
  • Balance sheet

If you’re having a difficult time deciding on a software, you could talk with those already in the industry and see what they use and what they think about it.

Two features I personally prefer are use on-the-go and ease of use. There’s nothing I like more than being able to snap a picture of a receipt when I’m leaving the store and having it automatically add the expense into my account.

Business and Domain Name Registration

This is the fun part!

The next step in our roadmap is to decide on a name and register it! Your business name is like your personal name. It is something that will play a role in nearly every part of your business.

Some business owners know exactly what they will name their business, while others dwell on the possibilities for days. It’s tough, and a good name will encompass the business and everything it stands for.

Some experts believe names should be unique and others believe they should be informative, so it’s easy to understand what your business is about.  

8-Steps to Your Business Name

Use these 8-steps to help you make a decision, if you’re struggling to name your event business:

  1. Brainstorm and think of anything and everything that could potentially be a good fit and write down all the words that come to mind. 
  2. Now take a moment to identify a few words that sum up your business. How are you different than your competition? Who is your target audience? List any specifics that identify your business.
  3. Review your compilation of words. Disregard anything that just doesn’t fit, is already taken, or doesn’t seem to identify your business as you wish it did.
  4. Think of your audience – is the name easy to pronounce and spell? Is it easy to remember?
  5. Is it descriptive? If your business name isn’t descriptive, add a tagline to describe your services.
  6. Ensure your URL domain name is available. Sites like Hostgator can assist you with this.
  7. See what others think of your business name. Ask at least 25 people from your target audience for their thoughts and feedback on the name.
  8. Visit your state/government website to ensure that your name is legally available. If so, go ahead and register it on this website.

Creating a Tagline

Follow these tips to create the perfect business tagline.

Tip: Oftentimes, we try to get too creative or say too much and the message gets lost altogether. Keep it simple!

  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Describe your benefit to your clients – how do you help them and make their jobs easier?
  • Be clear – avoid confusion or misinterpretation
  • Be you – your personality sells your event services and so should your tagline.
  • Identify how you are better and different than your competitors.
  • Don’t be vague – explain exactly why your clients should choose you.

Writing a tagline for your event business may not be at the top of your list, but taglines build value and can be a memorable part of your marketing strategy.

License, Permits and Legality

As I’m sure you are already aware, there is a lot of paperwork and legal work involved in starting your own business!

The license and insurance practices differ by each country, state and city.

Event Insurance

Let’s first dive into insurance.

Insurance is an important aspect of an event planning business. There are a lot of details that are managed, and with that, there is always a chance for an accident or mistake.

We will take a look at some of the most popular event insurance plans in this comparison chart:

  Events, Planning & Organization Professional Liability Insurance General Liability Business Owner’s Policy
Policy Benefits

 

 

 

Event Coverage

 

 

 

Event Coverage w/ Alcohol

 

Event Management

 

 

 

Event Planning

 

 

 

Personal Assistant

 

 

 

Professional Organizer

 

 

 

Travel Agents

 

 

 

Wedding Consultants

 

 

 

Unhappy Client

 

 

 

Yourself

 

 

 

Your Employees

 

✔️

 

 

Independent Contractors

 

✔️

 

 

Failure to Perform

 

✔️

 

 

Alleged Negligence

 

✔️

 

 

Bad Advice

 

✔️

 

 

Bodily Harm

 

 

Property Damage

 

 

Medical Costs

 

 

Business Property

 

 

 

✔️

Non-owned business auto

 

 

 

✔️

Business Interruption

 

 

 

✔️

As you can see, Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) is a package that includes General Liability Protection, plus the option to protect your business property.

The type of insurance you choose is a personal choice, but make sure to take a close look at what’s included and what’s not included before choosing a plan, as this chart is only a summary of some of the most popular benefits.

I recommend you meet with a knowledgeable and reputable insurance broker, as they will provide you with a detailed and extensive list of what each plan includes and can assist you in making the right decision for your event planning business.

Event Legalities

Now that you have an idea of the insurance options that are out there, let’s continue with some legal information.

As a new business, you will need to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) in the United States.

In Canada, this is referred to as a business number (BN).

These numbers are unique numbers assigned to new businesses for identification purposes.

If you are a Canadian company and plan to do business in the US, an EIN number is required.

These numbers can be obtained by visiting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

In order to apply for an EIN, you must have a valid taxpayer identification number. If you are a United States citizen, this is your social security number (SSN). If you are a foreign national or nonresident alien, you will use your individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

Some US states also require that you obtain a state tax identification number for your business, which can be done by visiting the department of revenue for the state. As with a majority of legal concerns, the rules and regulations differ based on your location. Be aware of your local rules and regulations.

Now, an EIN is not required if you are a sole-proprietor, so you may use your social security number. Nonetheless, obtaining an EIN is typically free and it’s a good practice, so you may want to get one anyway.

I know there’s a lot of information – but, stick with me!

Licenses and Permits

Moving on to licenses and permits.

First things first – these words are not synonymous.

Though they are closely related, they each have their own definitions.

A license implies competence and is a granted permission to do or use something.

A permit implies inspection and is a type of license that is granted by a government agency.

Permits ensure safety and are typically given after an inspection. If you have an event planning business, then you need a license.

Again, the type of license depends on your location, so be sure to check with your local government agency to see what’s required in your area.

Build an Event Team

If you are hiring employees, this is the time to start the process!

If you have designed your business plan to hire employees at a later time, this information is still beneficial.

We will discuss the hiring process and what it entails – so you may come back and reference this information when that time comes.

Employee or Contractor?

The first step in the hiring process is to decide if you will be hiring an employee or an independent contractor.

In order to make the right choice, you will need to know the pros and cons of hiring an employee and an independent contractor.

Hiring an Independent Contractor

An independent contractor can work for others, set their own rate, and set their own hours.

Depending on the situation, they may also provide their own tools. As a business owner, you will have fewer reporting or tax responsibilities for independent contractors.

In the United States, you will have to report the amount you paid them on a Form 1099, but you won’t have to withhold or pay Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes on the payments.

Hiring an Employee

Alternatively, an employee will work for you under an express or implied contract of hire, in which you will have the right to control the details of work performance and how they complete tasks.

That being said, as the employer, you will have direct control over employee’s hours, rate, and means of completing a task. With that, however, there are quite a bit of laws and regulations that come with them.

Depending on your location, there are different wage, salary, overtime, and other regulations. You must also pay half of the FICA taxes for each employee and collect the other half from the employee.

Additional responsibilities include unemployment insurance and workers compensation insurance.

Now that you know a little more about employees and independent contractors, you can make a more informed decisions.

If you will be hiring employees, be sure to take the time to list and describe all the positions you need, as well as the responsibilities, requirements and expectations of each position. You can then post on a job board, or anywhere else of your choice, and start receiving applications.

After you have had the chance to review applications and continue with the candidate that best fits the business needs, you will need to on-board the employee. This includes having them complete a W-4 form, schedule pay periods to coordinate with tax withholding, create a compensation plan for holidays, vacations and personal leave, and report payroll taxes as needed.

On-boarding Your Event Team

The on-board process is much simpler if you have chosen to hire an independent contractor.

First, be sure to get your independent contractor agreement squared away prior to your search.

As with hiring an employee, you will want to make sure you have taken the time to describe your needs and expectations for your business – the more accurate, the more likely you are to find a qualified candidate.

Once you have found your candidate, you both may exchange and sign each other’s contracts. The compensation and working hours differ from contractor to contractor, so be sure to discuss these terms prior to signing the contract.

Growth and Promotion

Yay! You are now done with all the paperwork and behind-the-scenes work of starting an event planning business.

Now is the fun part – putting yourself (or your team) to work.

You have completed all the necessary steps to ensure success, but now we have to let your event planning business do the talking. These last three steps are done simultaneously, as you continue to grow and scale your business. That being said, these steps are almost like a cycle, and will be completed over, and over, and over again.

As you gain more knowledge and expertise, these steps will be tweaked and improved to fit your own business, but we will discuss the outline to get you rolling.

Attracting New Clients

Once your business is up and running, you will need to start attracting new clients. In order to do that, create a unique selling proposition (USP) and dust off that marketing plan we designed in the business plan section.

Explore and experiment with as many possible marketing and promotion tactics that you can come up with.

As you start rolling out these tactics, you will see which are working, and which are not. Take note – if you experience a high conversation rate on a specific promotion or advertisement, be sure to take a look at what you included on that advertisement, that wasn’t included on other advertisements, and use it!

Another make-or-break tactic for new (and current) event planning business owners is marketing yourself. You’re different from your competition and you have the practical skills needed for event planning, but do you know the best ways to market yourself as an event planner.

Event Marketing

Though word of mouth is a great way to gain new referrals and clients, you should not simply rely on this. In order to gain the competitive advantage, you need to know what marketing is and what it is not.

Contrary to popular belief, marketing is not about getting people to remember you. It’s about letting your clients know you have what they need and getting them to take action and buy your event services.

Remember, there are hundreds of thousands of event planning businesses. The client likely already knows they want to hire an event planner, so it is your job to convince them why they should hire you.

Tip: Rather than focusing on cute ways to get clients to remember you, spend that energy meeting them one-on-one.

The goal of marketing is it turn a profit and stand out against your competition. It’s important to talk to your prospective clients to know what they’re thinking, to discover their needs and understand them.

There is no better way to truly get to know somebody than to meet with them face-to-face. I can assure you that your prospective client is getting multiple emails, phone calls and messages from different event planners. You may have the most creative and appealing message, but it’s difficult to remember people without having a face to put to their name.

Meet with your prospective client for coffee – build that foundation.

Then, invite them to an event you’re planning or an educational seminar you’re hosting about event planning.

After that, offer to introduce them to previous clients you’ve worked with to give them value. By doing this you’re building on that foundation you created at the coffee shop!

It’s key to give your client everything they need to know to make a decision. Unlike you, clients don’t see your service as the best, it is your job to show them how your event services work and they’ll be more likely to make a decision to invest in your event services.

4 Ways to Promote Your Event Services

Once you’ve built relationships with your clients, how do you stay in front of them without being too pushy?

Here are 4 ways to promote your event coordinator services:

  1. Today, social media is a very powerful platform for business. This is a great location to showcase your events and services, but that’s not all it should be used for. Post engaging content, such as questions, to keep your audience coming back. Share your advice, tips, and tricks, to show your knowledge and expertise.
  1. Keep previous and current clients updated. Though you want to gain new clients, you also want to keep those you have already worked with. The point of this is to turn those clients into repeat clients. You can do this by simply staying in touch and keeping them updated with what you’re doing. Send regular emails or newsletters and add that personal touch by sending cards on holidays and at birthdays. Even better, take them out for lunch, or another cup of coffee to maintain that foundation you initially created. You’re not only reminding them of your existence, you’re also making them feel valued, and I’ve built many amazing client relationships this way.
  1. Network, network, network! Forming solid relationships with other businesses in the event industry, is one of the most effective strategies for event planners looking to turn a profit. By building these relationships, you are marketing yourself and these businesses will refer you to their clients. Don’t forget that this should work both ways, so only form these types of business connections with businesses that you’re happy to recommend to other people.
  1. Don’t forget about offline marketing. The online world opens up a whole wealth of opportunities to connect with potential clients, but you shouldn’t forget your offline presence. As a world that is constantly on the go, you never know who you may run into. Carrying your business cards at all times, is a great habit to get into. Whether you’re running an errand, at the dentist, or at an event, you may meet potential clients who are in need of event planning services. That being said – be sure your business cards are clean, crisp and to the point!

Community Involvement

Another great place to get some experience is through your own community.

Regardless of where you live, get involved in your community because it’s a great way to pay it forward and build your event skills. Moreover, you can also get to know so many people in your community, get your name out and in return, get referrals.

For example, if there is a breast cancer 5K, volunteer to help as needed! Learn the ropes, gain experience, and be sure to bring those business cards! As the event unfolds and everything runs smoothly, you want to be sure that those attendees and business are aware of your business, as they now know how great your services are! This is an excellent opportunity to gain massive and diverse exposure.

Talk About Your Event Planning Business

You meet people who are attending, you meet the organizers of the event and you let them know about your event planning business, what your business is about, and what event planning services you offer.

Simply getting out there and talking about your services, can work wonders.

Tapping into your own network is the easiest way to get experience right off the bat. This could be friends and family, co-workers, or even somewhere where you volunteer.

Partner with Other Businesses

As mentioned above, creating a relationship with other businesses is a great way to take your business to the next level. As you build this relationship, you and the other businesses may choose to partner together, which is a great way to combine your skills and blend them with somebody else’s and then offer your businesses or your skill-sets together as a group.

There are hundreds of vendor options. Musicians, caterers, designers, or even photographers are great businesses to partner with to help you find, reach, and approach other clients.

Addie Graham Kramer, who is the owner of The Event Company in South Dakota is a guest on the local news network and she talks about what’s happening around town.

She’s not necessarily talking about her events but all the activities and all the different events that are going around town.

This is great promotion for her event company!

Consider Other Industries

Look at other industries and what other businesses are doing. You don’t have to focus on Event Planners, and what Event Planners are doing, you can look at other industries and see what’s working in those industries and then apply it to your services and event planning business

Sales

Now, you have promoted, marketed and advertised your event planning business to your client, but what comes next?

The sale.

Once you have taken the time to build a relationship with a prospective client, create your selling point for the client – the event proposal.

This is where you will explain your understanding of the client’s needs and how you plan to meet them. In other words, you are writing your vision on paper, so you can seamlessly present them to the client.

When companies and organizations are looking for an event company, they’ll often release an RFP (Request for Proposal), which is a formal document that describes their needs, requirements and expectations for the event. 

In order to be a candidate, you will need to bid on the job and submit an event proposal, which outlines how you or your event company will meet the client’s needs and why you’re best suited to the job vs. your competitors.

But how do you create a strong proposal that will stand out against the larger, more experienced firms?

5 Elements Every Event Proposal Needs

There are five crucial elements that every proposal needs, though the information provided may vary depending on the event requirements:

  1. Event Overview– This is where you will show your understanding of your client’s needs, requirements and expectations for the event. I recommend that you offer a few suggestions based on your previous conversations with them. However, be sure not to give away all your ideas and suggestions, as you want to give them an incentive to work with you. The important part in this section is to prove to your client that you understand their needs and address how you plan to assist.
  2. Event Outline– This is where you will “sell yourself.” Describe and outline your previous event planning experience; be sure to add pictures! If you have a team, this is where you will provide the organizational chart. This is an important section in your event proposal because it offers you the opportunity to remind your client about you, your experience, and your expertise. If you’re a new event planner and don’t have a lot of event experience yet, point out your event training and any internships or volunteer experience you have.
  3. Showcase Your Services– This is your moment to shine! Describe your services and offerings, such as the hours you’re available for consultations, (i.e.: 9-5pm Monday-Friday). Remember, the proposal is your sales pitch. Reinforce your strengths and address any reservations the client might have about hiring you, versus your competitor. Occasionally, your competitor will be a large company. In order to present a strong proposal and stand out against the competition, you will need to present your areas of expertise and demonstrate how you’ll solve the client’s problem(s) and/or how you specialize in the client’s field.  
  1. Event Budget Presentation– the “bottom line” is essential to making the event happen. Paint a picture for your client by outlining the costs estimates, miscellaneous expenses, contingency fund, and then the actual costs of each event component. Prior to adding dollar values to each component of your event proposal, recognize each part of the event that incurs a cost.
  1. Finishing Touches– Before submitting your event proposal, finesse the document by reviewing it and ensuring it fulfills the needs and requirements of the client’s RFP. As with any professional document, have someone proofread the document, so it’s free of spelling and grammatical errors, reads logically, and clearly addresses your client’s needs. When it’s ready, print it on high quality paper or create a landing page with a special URL specifically for that event proposal. It’s also a good idea to include an introductory video and a PDF download of the document.

Upon receipt of the proposal, the client will review your proposal and choose to decline or accept. Let’s assume they accept (which they should if you’ve followed our suggestions)! Upon acceptance, you will then follow through with the event planning process – as outlined in “Everything you Need to Learn How to be an Event Planner.”  

Event Planning Contracts

One of the most overlooked steps to on-boarding a new client is event contracts.

While the word “contract” can feel intimidating, having a legal contract forces both parties to agree to a set of terms and conditions.

The purpose of the event planning contract is to protect you as the event planner and your clients. Though unfortunate circumstances can often be avoided, there are times were misunderstandings occur.

In some cases, the consequences are minimal, but in others, the mistakes can be costly.

What to Include in Your Event Contract

With an event planning contract, you and your client will have a clear understanding of the work that will be completed.

When creating your event planning contract, be sure to include these five things:

  1. Provided Services – Specify these services in detail. Will you provide floral arrangements? List it. Will you assist with venue selection? List it. While it is important to list what services will be provided, it is just as important to list the services that will not be provided. This will ensure a clear understanding of what is and is not expected. This will help you, so that in the event that your client requests that you handle these responsibilities, you have a contract to show for.
  2. Payment ScheduleAll event planning contracts should include terms of payment, as well as the specifics regarding the payment schedule. List the initial deposit due date and clearly communicate that no work will begin on event planning until the deposit has been cleared. Provide a payment schedule for future payments. This schedule can be a set calendar date or a milestone in the planning process. Be sure to include any taxes or added fees.
  3. Terms of Event Cancellation – The event planning contract should include terms for event cancellation. Specify whether or not the initial deposit and all previous payments made up until the point of cancellation are refundable or not. I recommend that you state that all payments are non-refundable, as it guarantees that you will be paid for the work already completed.
  4. Termination Clause/Force Majeure – Circumstances beyond your control, such as extreme weather, that cause either party to be unable to fulfill the terms of the event planning contract are protected by a termination clause, also known as a force majeure. By including this clause, neither parties are held liable. Be sure you specify the terms and time-frame for termination, including noting the reasons for cancellation.
  5. Indemnification Clause – This clause provides protection if your client does something that causes you harm or results in a third party suing you for damages. Simply put, your client cannot hold you responsible for any losses, damages, liabilities, or expenses that are a result of their negligence.

Most importantly, do not sign anything until you are completely satisfied with the terms and conditions.

Client Feedback 

Following the event, it is your responsibility to prove to the client that working with you was worth it.

The simplest way to do this is to measure the return on investment (ROI).

Contrary to popular belief, in the event industry, this term does not solely refer to money.

4 Strategies to Show ROI

There are four strategies I recommend for measuring ROI and to show your client the event was a success:

  1. Measure the overall success of the event. Did the event run smoothly and on time? Were the event attendees happy with the food provided? Did you hear any of the attendees talking about anything specific about the event?
  2. Clearly define success with your client prior to the event. During your initial planning meetings, be sure to define what success looks like during and after the event. What feelings does the client want to evoke? Is the event about sales, building relationships, or are there certain outcomes that attendees need to have learned after attending the event?
  3. Are there any long-term outcomes that your client wants to achieve?
  4. Document everything! The more proof that you have readily available to show your client, the easier it is to show your event ROI now, and in the future.

Post-Mortem Meeting

A post-mortem meeting is a meeting that runs after the event has concluded. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the event and address any mistakes (and successes) that may have come up.

For example, if the event was delayed due to a lack of communication, this is a great time to look at what went wrong and discuss how to prevent this issue in future events.

Many view post-partem meetings as a negative activity, but the truth is, it’s a huge opportunity to learn and grow as an event planner.

The key question to ask during these meetings is “how did we do, and why?”

These meetings should not only address issues and mistakes, but also successes.

Was there something that you continually got complemented on? Maybe your organization and professionalism? Great! Bring that up and take note, so you remember what you did and do it in future events!

It’s important that these meetings occur directly after the event concludes, as this will allow a fresh and relevant conversation.

Conclusion

Before we close up this lesson, I want to finish with a final piece of advice.

I know a vast majority of aspiring business owners that are terrified to take the leap and become self-employed.

It’s scary and its uncertain.

Working AND Starting an Event Planning Business

That is why I highly recommend and encourage you work on your event planning business while you work a full or part-time job.

Use your day job to keep a roof over your head and to learn valuable business skills that you’ll need in your event business.

4 Ways Your Day job Helps Your Event Business

If you’re considering starting an event planning business while you’re working a 9-5, but you’re hesitant back because you’re scared you won’t make enough money, here are four ways your day job helps you build a successful event planning business.

  1. Hire and Train Employees–As your event planning business begins to grow, you will need to hire and train employees. Though we briefly discussed this topic previously, there is a lot that goes into new employee onboarding. While you are working your 9-5, observe and absorb everything you can about this process. From the job posting phase, on through the training phase, take detailed notes of each phase and what it entails. This will assist you greatly when the time comes for you to enter into this process.
  2. Make Connections(while you’re working) – As you are well aware by now, making solid connections is key to business success. It’s important to connect with, learn from and build relationships with the people you come into contact with each day. You never know when they (or someone they know) will need your services!
  3. Invest in Your Events Business– Because you have a 9-5 with consistent and reliable income, you have the chance to invest in your event planning business. Even if it’s something as simple as a business logo or business cards, you are moving in the right direction and you know what and when you will get paid. But, before you spend a lot of money on marketing stuff materials and activities, understand how your investment (in a website or other marketing materials) will make an impact on your event business.
  4. Avoid Desperation– If you don’t have a 9-5 and a reliable and consistent income, business owners can get desperate for money. This can result in attracting the wrong clients, wasting time and money on unprofitable events, and eventually cost you money. It’s hard to stay positive and motivated when you are being turned down and when you are running low on money and it’s easy to feel a sense of desperation. The thing is, your desperation shows, and your event clients will feel it too.

What I really want you to understand is that building an event planning business is a process and requires consistent actions that help you achieve your dream of being a business owner.

There’s no magic pill and it’s all about having the right know-how, support system and mentors who have ‘been there, done that’ that show you exactly what to do and when to do it.

It’s about creating a plan: a real (and solid) plan.

All you have to do is follow the steps.

Having a plan and the steps is what gives you the confidence to (eventually) leave your job, while knowing that you are making enough money with your event planning business.

Starting a small business is not easy, but it’s worth it!

Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. Use this roadmap that you have created to continually improve and work on your business and you will significantly improve your chance of success.

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